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In the Context of No Coherence

With rare exceptions, I have limited my literary commentary here to books that I thoroughly enjoyed, that emotionally moved me, that engaged my intellect, that established a bond between the writer and myself.

The following commentary, then, is one of those rare exceptions.

I recently read, or tried to read anyway, George W.S. Trow's In the Context of No Context, and I'm not at all embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I have absolutely no idea what the hell Trow was talking about in this slim volume. (I won't even link to the book, lest someone think I'm at all recommending it, which I most assuredly am not.) I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, and well-educated (admittedly not in the humanities, but in fields that require considerable analytical reasoning, interpretation and sound judgment), but whatever concepts Trow was trying to get across were completely lost on me. Trow undoubtedly felt he was being profound and deeply philosophical here, but wrote almost entirely in blandly vague generalities and obscure and unexplained metaphors. (If somebody can explain his baffling and repeated invocation of Nathanael West's "goat and adding machine ritual", which West apparently used as a quirky plot device but which Trow conflates into something Staggeringly Important, I'm all ears.) And while I'm sure he felt clever and innovative, starting off with all of those one-paragraph-long sections, each set apart with its own title, that questionable structure disrupted whatever steady reading flow the reader might have otherwise developed, a flow which could have considerably aided the comprehension of Trow's uncompelling prose. And then those short, terse sections were followed, suddenly and abruptly, by long paragraphs filled with florid, gushing but ultimately empty prose, at which point, seventy pages in, I abandoned the book for good.

Life's just too short to muddle through such muddled, impenetrable texts. This book sat on my shelf for ten years, awaiting my reading. I should have just left it there.

November 21, 2007 in Books | Permalink

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